Ancient Egyptians (2003)

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Released 14-Apr-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Warriors And Thieves
Featurette-Digital Egypt
Featurette-Reinventing Ancient Egypt
Gallery-Production Stills
Featurette-Priests And Dreamers
Featurette-Speaking In Hieroglyphs
Featurette-Pharaonic Fashion
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 196:50
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Tony Mitchell
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Omar Berdouni
Case ?
RPI $49.95 Music Robert Lane


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Mention ancient Egypt and you usually think of massive pyramids, vast temples and huge statues. A civilisation on an epic scale, it was the most advanced, most wealthy and most powerful nation in the world. Yet there was more to ancient Egypt than Pharaohs and pyramids. It was a complex society with common people as well as the rich and powerful.

    Ancient Egyptians takes us into the everyday lives of the people, both the ruling class and the average labourer. It is a fascinating insight into a bygone world, revealing a society that, along with great military and civil achievements, has crime, corruption and injustice. The sets are magnificent (with an estimated budget of £7,000,000 for this series, they should be) and ancient Egypt is re-created by the seamless use of CGI and huge physical sets. Authenticity is enhanced by the actors speaking only in ancient Egyptian. Hearing Pharaoh berate his generals in the original language is unusual and interesting.

    This two disc set comprises four episodes and are presented as docu-dramas with actors playing the parts of the Egyptians and a narrator telling the story. There are two episodes of about 50 minutes on each disc and each episode tells a story based on actual records that have survived from ancient Egypt. The Egyptians recorded everything, and scribes made detailed accounts of conversations and events, many of which have been discovered buried in old temples and cities. It is these accounts that are used as the basis for the scripts for each episode. The people and events in each story are real, which makes for fascinating viewing when you consider that the events portrayed were actual occurrences rather than mere speculation.

Disc 1

Battle of Megiddo (49:17)
    It is 1458BC and Egypt has a new, young Pharaoh. Syrian warlords see this as the perfect time to rise against Egyptian oppression, taking advantage of Pharaoh's inexperience. Pharaoh Tuthmosis III must raise an army and suppress the insurrection. As we watch the events unfold, the difference in daily life between the officer class and the drafted peasants in the Egyptian army become evident.

Tomb Robbers (49:08)
    In 1111BC, a labourer is brought to trial on charges of tomb robbing. Taken from the actual court transcripts, this episode follows the capture and trial of the labourer. His confession will rock ancient Egypt as it reveals an organised network of tomb robbers operating within the elite tomb builders and corruption that reaches to the very top of Egyptian society.

Disc 2

Murder in the Temple (49:08)
    While Egypt is a kingdom in chaos, racked with civil war and invasion, the priests of Amun set themselves up as power-brokers and are answerable to no-one. When a new Pharaoh sends his cousin to bring the priests back under Pharaoh's authority, the priests resent the submission to which they are subjected. In 632BC, after a generation of dominance by the family of Pharaoh's cousin, there is a political shift in Pharaoh's court and the priests seize the opportunity to exact revenge.

The Twins (49:17)
    In 164BC a letter is written to Pharaoh by twin girls petitioning for his help so that they may obtain justice. The letter tells how the twins have been thrown into the streets by their mother following the murder of their father. Without money or home, they are destitute until they are fortunate enough to be chosen as priestesses in the cult of the Apis Bull.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer aspect ratio is 1.78:1, which appears to be the original aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a quality production and it shows on this DVD. The video quality is excellent with very little to complain about.

    There are some occasional instances of edge enhancement, such as in Battle of Megiddo at 33:30. These are usually in CGI or composite scenes and seem to be a result of the layering process. There are also instances throughout the series of slight graininess to the backgrounds. Neither of these are major faults, nor do they detract from the overall feeling of quality the video gives. For a made-for-television documentary series, this is a joy to watch.

    Subtitles, used extensively when the actors are speaking in ancient Egyptian, are easy to read.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The soundtrack is Dolby Digital 2.0 and is mostly delivered through the centre speaker, which is to be expected since the majority of the audio is the narration or character dialogue. There is some movement to the left and right for atmospheric sound effects. No surround sound is used.

    Although a basic audio experience, it is clear with the narration and dialogue easy to understand. There are no audio sync problems, nor is there any hiss or other audio faults.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Each disc has a collection of extras that provide a deeper insight into the episodes on the disc as well as the production in general. While they may not be the best extras you will ever see, they are interesting and worthwhile.

Menu

    The menu is animated with a montage of hieroglyphs and scenes from the series and there is a loop of background music accompanying it.

Disc 1

Warriors and Thieves (6:45)
    A behind-the-scenes look at the making of Battle of Megiddo and further historical background to Tomb Robbers.

Digital Egypt (7:40)
    A look at how ancient Egypt was recreated using CGI and the special effects used in the series, such as battle scenes and the bull mummification scene.

Reinventing Ancient Egypt (5:09)
   
A look at the physical set construction that went into recreating ancient Egypt and the research done to ensure authenticity.

Production Stills
    A number of production stills from Battle of Megiddo and Tomb Robbers.

Disc 2

Priests and Dreamers (5:59)
    Further background information on the Murder in the Temple and The Twins episodes.

Speaking in Hieroglyphs (5:36)
    A brief look at the ancient Egyptian language and the research the series undertook to recreate the spoken language.

Pharaonic Fashions (5:55)
    Background on the fashions of ancient Egypt and the recreation of the clothing of the era.

Production Stills
    A number of production stills from Murder in the Temple, The Twins and images of costumes.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as I have been able to check, there are no differences in content between regions for this title, so the only issue is NTSC vs PAL.

Summary

    An interesting series that looks at ancient Egypt from a different angle to that of most documentaries by concentrating on the everyday rather than the big achievements. I found it particularly interesting since the stories are dramatised accounts of real events.

    The producers say that their aim was to bring ancient Egypt back to life, and they have been mostly successful in achieving this goal. If you have a general interest in history, or a specific interest in ancient Egypt, you will enjoy this brief but high quality series.

   The video quality is excellent.

   The audio quality is good although only Dolby Digital 2.0.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Glen Randall (If you're really bored, you can read my bio)
Monday, May 30, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-1200Y, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig M84-210 80cm. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596
SpeakersRichter Wizard fronts, Richter Lynx centre, Richter Hydra rears, Velodyne CT-100 sub-woofer

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